Posts tagged ‘CreateSpace’

Self-published…print! AND…then what? (a personal journey account)

O.K., so here’s the reality for anyone interested in becoming an author, or for just whoever might want to know about the process involved when finally getting that tome of yours self-published.  Is it a harsh reality? If I let you think that way…you may never want to try the self-publishing route at all…so let’s just continue to consider it.  You’ve written a story, collection of poems, essays, or the like. You would like to share your work with the world, and thus would like to see it published.  However, despite that want and your gut feeling that your body of work is well-worth being appreciated by the rest of the world…you can not find it a traditional publishing house.

This is what this post is about then:  self-publishing.  Maybe even you are a wayy big-baller, and you don’t want to go the normal route, because you know the drill, and you want your own control over your project.  My first book is a children’s picture-book…and I know since I’m not Jim Carrey, or Spike Lee, who both have recently-published picture-books out right now…the likelihood of me scoring a publishing house, especially because I have my own friend/collaborator who is the artist/illustrator of my project…was pretty slim.  So I didn’t bother going there.

But let’s get to the heart of this post.  I found a printer.  Ingram/Spark.  Best outfit, in my mind, of having the best offerings.  Things like quality printing, fairly inexpensive finished products, and their highly touted global distribution network.  Their claim is 39,000 distributors:  like libraries, on-line retailers, and schools/universities…who if they were to choose your title out of Ingram’s catalogue, could then order as many copies as they would like to carry and or sell.  Which sounds SO exciting! All of those people, able to consider your work!

But…and isn’t there always that one big butt-head thing that stops us? The thing is, even though Ingram, unlike CreateSpace, allows an individual author to publish in a hardback format (aka Case Laminate) and that might be what you would like to see aside from just a paperback (definitely what libraries need) the cost, including an upgrade to a premium color package (for me, or for cookbooks, heavy graphics, etc. which includes a heavier stock of 70#)…is just too prohibitive.  My base price, plus shipping, plus allowing for the traditional ability for retailers to have a “return policy” on their orders, would totally negate any profit I could make, along with a truly horrifying thought that if a retailer could not sell my precious book — I would be on the hook for the return charges!

So, here’s what I have done:  I left my book listed with Ingram/Spark at a premium package.  I disallowed any return policy.  This alone, supposedly and most definitely, will preclude me from being on anyone’s must-order list! I priced it as high as I could to allow for the 55% discount (also supposedly such a tradition, no one will order unless you have allowed this deep cut)  and to allow just the base printing price to be covered.  I think there was something like a $1.80 or so, left-over as profit for myself and illustrator to share.  Because that’s our shared business-plan.  For any on-line retailer, there was still room to make a profit…but not without the gamble of first buying the product outright.  So I know that’s never going to happen.

What is going to happen now is that I am going to still have a very nice place to print off books, one at a time, or as many as I choose to have printed and shipped to me…at a very affordable price; and receiving, for that price..the best quality, professional book I can be proud of.  Then, I am going to continue marketing the eBook version, while at the same time promoting sales of a hardback version, through my own website.  The next marketing move for me, after I can see if I can work out an agreement with any major stores/chains, etc., will be to do just like the big-boy publishers are doing:  print it overseas.  During a recent foray into Barnes & Noble, I found almost every picture-book to have been published (no matter the famous publishing-house) in either China, or Malaysia.

Now, definitely, you may be able to score sales from the global network program, if you are just merely looking to have a paperback listed on Amazon, and hopefully other retailers.  You will be much luckier than I in that regard, as your book will be much less costly to produce, and therefore can be picked up by other retailers! Yay for you! 🙂

Also, do not forget to produce your book in an eBook format!   If you sell it primarily on the internet, you will need to focus all of your attention on marketing it on the internet where you feel your core group can be found. The business (and it is a business) of marketing is almost full-time, and can take very valuable time away from what you love best:  writing! You may then consider, if your finances allow for it, a marketing team to boost awareness of your product.

When I decide I have some buyers for bigger venues, and I am ready to commit time to local fairs, shows, etc., I will order the minimum shipment allowable (like $3,500 worth) of books from China.  Meanwhile, I am happy to sell them one at a time through word of mouth, or like last week, one copy to a nearby lunch patron who was at the same bistro where I was holding a signing!

The true excitement and value comes when just that one person tells you they like your book.  It’s even better when they are a sweet, loveable child and the story reached them innocently, without that child worrying about how the story came by them and what marketing strategies the writer had to employ…it just came to them.  And they tell you they loved it! My book is titled ‘Spoiled Pink’, and the little girl dressed herself (she was 7) all in pink, to meet me! And what was even cooler, is that she and her mom already had a copy of the book, but just wanted to meet me and have it signed! That, to me, is what it’s all about!

 

 

 

 

Self-Published (recently) with tips! *PART THREE*

O.K., so I had been waiting to hear back from IngramSpark in regards to a problem I had encountered upon opening the remainder of a shipment I had received back in December of 2013.  The problem was that out of 100 hardback (known as Case Laminate) books in said shipment — roughly 75% were damaged.  They had wrinkled, wavy pages due to what looked like a too-tight roller during production…was my guess.  The order had cost me roughly $600.00 and some change, and I was not about to try to peddle books which had any type of flaw.  

Being as how I had not opened the last two boxes till I had sold the contents of the first box (TIP:  Always inspect full order immediately) it was sometime in late January that I discovered the rejects.  As there is no immediate customer service, as mentioned previously, I left an email I knew I could only wonder as to when it might be answered.  Maybe three or four days later, I received a reply, and an actual name, including a more direct email with which to correspond. I was asked to forward box info, as well as pictures of damage, so it could be forwarded to the print techs for them to substantiate damage, and perhaps figure out it’s cause.  The customer service rep explained that I would most likely have to rip all of the covers off, and send just those back.  I replied that that seemed like a bad jinx to subject my “babies” too…and besides that, I didn’t want to waste the time of doing all of that work to almost 70 books.  Shipping labels were emailed, printed out, and the shipment sent back.  

I next sent the tracking notice of when the shipment had been received at the Tennessee plant, and left an email with the customer rep.  That was February 14th, 2014.  Not hearing from said rep for almost another whole week, despite another reminder email, and a phone call…I again went back to the main email system and left a generic message for the company as a whole — stating of course, my displeasure with the companies attention, or lack thereof.  The rep called back finally, and stated he had sent me an email the past week.  I asked him to resend it, but he had some excuse as to why he could not generate that “sent” email.  He said they had decided to reship me a whole new batch…really? Wow, how nice! But then went on to say that if I ever received a shipment like that again, they could not guarantee that they would reprint my order again for me, as they were so graciously doing for me now…as it may just be that the color saturation was too much for the fast presses to handle, they surmised.  This sounded ridiculous to me. I asked, how can you offer a service/product, with no guarantees as to it’s quality?  He suggested perhaps I needed to move up a notch to the “premium color package” which really was nothing more than going from like a 50# stock, up to a 70# stock.  The cost? A mere extra $3.00 + per copy.  

O.K., I said, let me ask you a few questions.  I asked, how many picture-books do you print? Tons he answered.  And what type of package do they order? The standard package, he admitted. (Which is what I had ordered). O.K. I said, and final question, have you ever seen this happen with any of their orders? He answered no. I asked, why was an earlier order I had received fine, and why could they not then guarantee the quality of any future orders? He explained things about end rolls (paper) and how you might get variations in stocks depending on what orders piggy-backed on other orders.  But he kept returning back to the argument that any large order I may place, which suffers some type of printing disorder…would be subject to approval, and would not be guaranteed a do-over by the company.  I asked why would the company offer such a service if it could not back the quality of the printing order? He mumbled something about color saturation again…and picture-books being the problem.  And variations.  And variables.  Before he got off the phone, he promised approval for this one time at a do-over, and said he would send an email confirming shipment of my new replacements.  Almost a week passed, before getting that particular email, and at this point, it is now March 08th, and I am still not in receipt of any replacement books.

So, two things to consider:  1:  Picture-books, cook books, and anything laden with extra color, graphics, etc., may have extra problems.  2:  If you are just printing standard paperback, I am sure you would receive a quality product, and would encounter few problems.  Also, they have excellent shipping practices, and charge a very nominal fee for setting up your file, and only charge $12 per year to keep said file in their database, which is then available for printing year-round.

The only big set-back, especially for fledgling authors, is the stress and tension induced by not having any type of customer service.  DO NOT EXPECT ANY HAND-HOLDING! They do not even know they are dating you! You are one of many…and you can only be grateful for what they can deliver, when they deliver, and nothing more…as they very much play on a very large field.

It is nice to get quality printing, affordably delivered right to your very own door…and they do distribute case laminate books to online retailers (such as Amazon) which CreateSpace does not do.  So if you really want to see your book carried this way…IngramSpark is the only way to go.  They also advertise that they have 39,000 on-line affiliates, book-buyers/retailers, librarians, schools, etc., which you may catch the attention of, by having your title listed in their catalogue.  As of yet, I do not know whether this will be an advantage I will ever fully appreciate!

Many people, on finding out the particulars of creating an actual “print version” of their work, are choosing to solely go the route of eBook publishing–what my next blog will be about!

The above information was learned while producing the book ‘Spoiled Pink’, a picture-book for children 3-8.  More info can be found at http://www.thespoiledpinkbook.com or on Goodreads.

 

 

Self-Published (recently) with tips! *PART TWO*

Continuing the summarization of my experience with CreateSpace (now a subsidiary of Amazon) when self-publishing my first title, ‘Spoiled Pink’…a 44 page picture-book for children.

1) Excellent customer service, from accessibility via email requests, or a dedicated ‘team’ assigned to assisting you via phone call.  Also, even though they had processed some work prior to their approving cancellation of the rest of my order…they returned all funds without question, and in an expeditious fashion.  The end result, my title is officially in ‘retired’ mode — and they have been kind and wise enough not to just close the door on a potential reunion by still keeping my account open and accessible to me.

2)  Pricing:  Just a tad more per unit for case laminate/hardback version, & paperback/perfect bound than IngramSpark.  However, they do not print case laminate version for sale on either your ‘eStore’ website they allow you to set up (so that you can retain an additional 10% off of the sale of your books from traffic you drive to that site, ie., friends & family) –or for purchase on Amazon.  You will only be allowed to have paperback version sold on Amazon as well.  Bottom line — the hardback version is for you to publish on demand, one at a time if you like, for shipment solely to your home/business address.  

3)  As stated in Part One, but worth mentioning again…the promise of any connections to a global audience of booksellers & libraries is just a come-on.  This can not happen, as book publishers need be able first, to acquire the hardback (which is not offered for this program) and secondly and more importantly, book sellers/buyers need a traditional return policy so they are not stuck with unsold product.  Without this guarantee, there is a 99.9% likelihood no one can make the economic decision to order your book for sale on their distribution channels. 

4)  Poor shipping practices.

Now on to IngramSparks, an off-shoot of Ingram Lightning Source, one of the biggest distribution companies in the world.  IngramSparks is basically for the independent, small publisher, like me! Now for quick comparison:

1)  Zero customer service! The email server was so busy during the past Christmas holidays that an email went unanswered for over a week.  There is no dedicated team to your title.  There is no phone number to easily find to call, and if after a very diligent search you happen upon the number…that goes to voicemail and is unreturned.  If you really continue on in your search, oh, because let’s say you were in the process of uploading a file, and needed a question answered…and you managed to find the front-desk person, she would send you on to a person’s voicemail, and they might return the call, if only to say, please email question please, as we are very busy.  Long story short, you must have extreme confidence in processing their required paperwork, and you must trust either yourself or your web designer, that you are on the right path.  We were successful on our first attempt at uploading our file, so that is a good thing.  But then we waited in suspense for any number of days it seemed, before the file was approved for printing.  So, zero stars in that department…which for some, would probably be enough to call it quits, as at times it seemed we were not able to proceed through the maze of details unexplained to us at many junctures.

2)  Once your file/title is in the system, only then does the system seem to make sense, as it then seems orderly.  The price per unit is a bit more inexpensive than CreateSpace and the price actually rivals the bother of trusting an over-seas printer, and having to gamble on buying a minimum of 1000 or so units to keep in your garage to sell to nearby innocent bystanders.  The Indonesia/China markets also do not have print on demand (POD) & the wait is approximately up to two months.  

 

To be continued… As I am encountering new issues with IngramSparks…which have yet to be resolved!

A-hunting we will go…

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Last week, out of a deep slumber, I awoke to the sing-song voice of Elmer Fudd, saying “A-hunting we will go…” I literally sat up in bed, thinking WTH? Did that come from my friend Ron Yoder posting the occasional Bugs Bunny cartoon? I didn’t remember a recent posting. Maybe because it was duck hunting season and I had just visited with my son-in-law and heard how he hadn’t even squeezed off a shot, much less bagged a duck? (Daffy would be happy at that) Hmm…Elmer’s phrase that lingered in my head might even be attributed to those Duck Dynasty pictures floating around on Facebook.

Whatever prompted me to wake so unusually, even for me, a vivid technicolor dreamer…I let go of and decided to turn it into fodder for a blog. It’s not too far a reach, considering I’m in the midst of a just-released first book, that I then immediately pulled from the market. Now my book has no home, and I am hunting for a new printer.

My designer Randy has likened the process of self-publishing to being on Mr. Toad’s Wild ride…& I have to agree. Along with our own self-discoveries about our work dragging us down, my illustrator and I started with CreateSpace, a subsidiary of Amazon. The things we didn’t like? The fact that they cared so little about protecting our product during shipping was number one on the list. The first copy I held in my hand…which should have been a thrilling moment, was disappointing…with a big crease across the front, and an already bent corner.

I googled customer shipping reviews…and found horror story, after horror story. Boo! My next unpleasant surprise was the reduction in price in as little as 48 hours to 15% off our set list-price. Hey, I had a willing & eager buying public! Yay for the eStore set-up where I had listed my price, and was directing my friends & relatives to purchase…but a big NO to the Amazon web page where, while thrilling to see the book up on it’s ordering page…was again, a big disappointment when I saw what they put our price at.

So, a hunting-we-will-go, indeed!
But there’s a problem. Mr. Toad’s Wild ride won’t stop to let us off! We’ve finished our book, really! And we just want to list it with a fair and reputable company! But no, it’s not that easy, grasshopper. Which come to think of it, must be a pretty favorite food (grasshoppers) of Wild Toads. But that’s what it’s beginning to feel like. (I’ll stop here with my comparisons before I get into trouble like Tom Cruise always does.)

It seems that not only has everyone started blogs way before I have, but also they are way ahead on their book titles, and everyone who’s anyone is self-publishing right now. The company I am interested in is Lightening Source printing. But they started another sister company, Ingram/Sparks. Which one to use? What are the differences? Yes, the hunt is on, and these choices seem to currently be the best, but permits are not being given out easily. The company does not take calls…well they do, but only to say please contact them first via email. After which you receive your email back as undeliverable because they are currently out of space for accepting new emails.

I decided to also concurrently work the eBook route, and happily settled on BookBaby to be our aggregator to all the major distributors. Oh, a children’s book? Lot’s of pictures? Except for Apple’s version, that’ll need to be specially formatted by someone else. Off then, to Smashwords’ Mark’s list…where right off the bat the first choice guy says he can’t (won’t) take the time because he has so much business, he doesn’t want to turn away the easy stuff to bother with one that’s going to cut into his proceeds…Le sigh, I sigh to myself.

Long story short, I love Elmer Fudd’s catchy tune…but I sure do NOT enjoy the hunt! Funny thing, I don’t think ELmer likes hunting all that much either!

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